Monday, May 17, 2010

Cannes Madness


Julien here, your special correspondent in Cannes.

Sorry to report only now, but my schedule has been pretty hectic. I managed to attend a few screenings, so let me share my impressions with you.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is even worse than I expected it to be. Oliver Stone's 1987 original was never a great film, but it's a fun time capsule, and it contains the signature performance of one of the biggest stars of the 80's. But this ill-advised, opportunistic sequel is just a mess. Stone clings to his reputation as a whistle-blowing, politically conscious filmmaker, but his depiction of Wall Street is so broad (even by his standards), with its machiavellian, cigar-smoking traders, that it ends up feeling as topical as a Hannibal Lecter picture. Not to mention that the abundance of financial blabber is not only unilluminating, but boring as hell. And as iconic as Gordon Gekko may be, he's a relic from another era, and Stone has clearly no idea what to do with him, and how to integrate him to the current financial situation. So we get less Michael Douglas and loads of Shia LaBeouf, who manages to be even more obnoxious than Charlie Sheen was in the original. As for the direction, Stone's flashy visual histrionics feel more hollow and explanatory than ever, and as if all that wasn't enough, the musical choices are simply atrocious.

Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is a huge improvement on last year's Whatever Works. Sadly, that's not saying much. It's an ensemble piece, revolving around two disintegrating marriages, (Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones). Fear of aging and dying, romantic longing, cruel disappointments: it's typical Woody Allen fare, but once again, something's missing. It's clear that of late, Woody doesn't seem half as concerned with his characters as he once was, and this one lacks the sharpness that made Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona his best pictures of the decade. The actors are a mixed bag: Naomi Watts sells the romance better than the comedy, Anthony Hopkins seems bored (but when doesn't he these days), and Antonio Banderas is little more window dressing, but Josh Brolin's scruffy masculinity works better here than it does in Wall Street 2, and Gemma Jones is delightfully funny as Watts' gullible mother. However the main attraction remains wondering what Nicole Kidman would have made of the stereotypical Woody Allen hooker (played here amusingly by Lucy Punch).

Mike Leigh's Another Year is the best film I've seen so far during the festival, but I have to admit I don't quite share the critical community's unanimous praise. My problem lies with the structure: the film is centered around a couple (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen), around which revolves an array of supporting characters. But it soon becomes clear that the most involving characters are not the leads, whose quiet life and happy marriage are deliberately devoid of any real drama. One of the couple's friend, Mary (beautifully played by the great Lesley Manville, pictured left with Leigh, who may win the Best Actress prize on Sunday) has almost become the protagonist by the end of the picture. I kept wondering why Mike Leigh hadn't built the whole film around her, and also why he abandoned the devastating character played by Imelda Staunton after only two short scenes. Maybe he intended to frustrate his audience, but why? Also, I have to say that I felt the opposition between blissful family life and pathetic spinsterhood felt a little -dare I say it - conventional. Don't misunderstand me, it's still strong cinema, and it has great moments, but I would hardly call it Leigh's best.

I'll be back to talk about Xavier Dolan's Les Amours Imaginaire, but for now I have to walk the red carpet with Javier Bardem.



James T said...

Thank you so much! Your writing is simple yet very clear and informative. And if French is your first language, that was really impressive!


@James T
yes English is a second language. But those Europeans are smart and multilingual. I weep that i wasn't trained on multiple languages while i had that kid sponge brain.

yes, thanks for chiming in again! Keep it coming. I hope you're having a great time and i love the pic you included? i guess that's probably an interstitial or intro between the films since Tim Burton is the jury president and that's him and Batman. hee. 1989 memories!

James T said...

As a European, I thank you :p
I still want to learn Spanish and French even if I'm not a kid. (I gave up on German. Too hard)

Jude said...

Nicole Kidman in a Woody Allen movie would have been amazing! Too bad.

His next film sure is filling up fast... Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody, Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson, that French girl...

Maybe he'll be able to focus on the characters then? I would hope!

Glenn Dunks said...

I'm so glad Nicole Kidman dropped out of Stranger since I am certain if she was in it people would blame her for the movie not being up to scratch.

Iggy said...

Maybe some time we could try to do an audio-comment thread, each in his/her own native language. With so many nationalities around here, it'd be fun.


Glenn -- omg. you're so right. that would totallly have happened.